Things to Do in Sydney - page 2
The foundations of Sydney were built on convict labor, and the Hyde Park Barracks are where criminals who were sentenced to live out the rest of their days in Australia were housed. Opened to hold male convicts working on the government projects and later to house orphan girls escaping the Irish famine, it was after that also used as a female immigration depot, an asylum for impoverished women and a courthouse. All through history, it was the place where people in Australia certainly did not want to end up. Now, as a museum, the barracks tell the stories of those unlucky enough to pass through its doors.
The building itself was also built with convict labor, after it was decided that housing the criminals in one place would improve productivity as well as their moral character. The structure looks nothing short of imposing with its massive shingled roof standing above a simple, durable façade of sandstock brick.
Often nicknamed “Paddo” by locals, Paddington is a suburb of Sydney that features a nice mix of culture, history and shopping opportunities. Known for its colonial architecture and beautiful balconied buildings, Paddo has long been a local favorite. And although the population of this district is quite meager, at just over 11,000 people, it packs a massive punch when it comes to activity.
In general, one could divide Paddington into four even more distinct districts. Five Ways is a bit of a village within a village and home to some of the best foodie spots in the Sydney area. Paddington Markets, as the name points at, is a massive flea market that takes place at the Uniting Church grounds. William Street is the art designer's district in which some of Sydney's top up-and-coming designers have their shops, and all of it is tied into Oxford Street, which runs the entire length of Paddington and is lined with shops, boutiques, cafes and eateries.
The steps of this iconic building in the heart of Sydney’s central business district serve as a popular meeting place for both travelers and locals, but it is what’s found within its walls that make a visit worthwhile.
Built in the 1880s, this sandstone structure is the political powerhouse of the city, housing the Sydney City Council chamber and the offices of the lord mayor, the deputy lord mayor and the city’s councilors. But what catches the eye of most visitors is the building’s Sydney Town Hall Grand Organ, the world’s largest pipe organ. Two-hour guided tours include a look at Centennial Hall, the Lady Mayoress’s Rooms, the Reception Room and the former site of the Old Sydney Burial Ground, in addition to a stop at the world-famous organ.
While visitors to Sydney do have the option to venture into the outback in search of Australia’s natural wonders, the Australian Museum, located in the heart of Sydney’s central business district, makes getting up close with the wild a whole lot easier.
Wander through air-conditioned hallways filled with more than 40,000 artifacts, including examples of rare native minerals and exotic tropical birds. An all-access pass grants entry to even more galleries filled with ancient archaeological wonders and indigenous Australian artifacts. Popular cultural exhibits also delve deep into the nation’s aboriginal roots and link contemporary time to the far off past. Wildlife fans should be sure to check out the quirky Surviving Australia exhibit, which showcases the country’s weird and wild through six distinct sections that illustrate animal adaptation and survival.
Famous around the world for its beautiful harbor setting, Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD) is the hub of Australia’s finance sector. The district extends from the Circular Quay in the north to the Central railway in the south, while its east-west axis runs from Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens in the east to Darling Harbor in the west.
The CBD is an area of densely concentrated skyscrapers and hosts some of Australia’s tallest buildings, including the Governor Phillip Tower, the MLC Centre, the World Tower and Sydney Tower. This concrete jungle is interspersed with several parks, including Hyde Park, The Domain, the Royal Botanic Gardens and Wynyard Park. George Street is the CBD’s main north-south thoroughfare, while Pitt Street, which includes the Pitt Street Mall and the Sydney Tower, is the retail heart of the CBD. Nearby, Macquarie Street is a historic precinct that contains the State Parliament House and the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
This unique landmark—a massive rock fashioned into a cozy bench—was carved from sandstone in the early 1800s by Gov. Lachlan Macquarie for his wife Elizabeth. As the story goes, when the weather was warm and the sun high, Mrs. Macquarie loved to relax at the point of this scenic peninsula and stare out over the ocean.
Today, travelers enjoy a leisurely walk to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair from the iconic Opera House or wander over to this historic attraction after a visit to the nearby Royal Botanic Garden. In a bustling city that’s alive with energy, the stone bench offers visitors a perfect place to unwind, relax and take in the some of the best views of Sydney Harbour.
The Woolloomooloo Wharf (also known as ‘the Finger Wharf’) is the largest timbered-piled building in the world. It was built in 1915 and for the next 70-odd years handled the export of much of Australia’s wool, as well as served as a disembarking point for new migrants arriving to the country.
By the 1970s usage of Woolloomooloo wharf was on the decline and by the 1980s it had become derelict and empty. The state had planned to demolish it, but when demolition work was set to begin there was such a strong public outcry that it was decided that the wharf would instead be renovated into a boutique hotel. Today, the wharf has been converted into a fashionable complex, housing some of Sydney’s finest restaurants and most stylish residential flats.
The eastern Sydney suburb of Watson’s Bay is more than just a charming fishing town—it’s also home to one of the most stunning views found anywhere in all of Sydney. At the cliff top viewpoint known as the “The Gap,” walkers are treated to a 360° panorama of Sydney’s Harbor and coastline. For all of its natural beauty, however, The Gap has a somewhat morbid history that is occasionally more famous than its view. In 1857, the Dunbar sailing ship was aiming for the Sydney Harbor entrance, but misjudged the entry point and was shipwrecked on the rocks.
All of the 122 passengers aboard perished in the grisly wreck, except for one sailor who would end up tending a lighthouse along Australia’s coast. The Gap is also infamously known for its high number of suicides, with hundreds of Australians having leapt from the cliff to the icy waters below.
Sydney’s late-night revelry hub is east of the city center in raffish Kings Cross. Restaurants, cafes, bars, and clubs throng the main thoroughfare, Darlinghurst Rd, which winds its way north to Macleay St and more-sedate Potts Point.
The focal point of Kings Cross is the gaudy neon Coca-Cola sign crowning William St, which leads east from Hyde Park. Take a walk along the area’s leafy streets, lined with double-story terrace houses fringed with lace ironwork balconies, and stop off for a coffee or refreshing drink at this vibrant area’s many cafes and pubs. If you follow Macleay St north, you’ll catch panoramic views of the harbor and Woolloomooloo; steps lead down to the water and the famous Harry’s Cafe de Wheels pie cart.
When the sun goes down, Kings Cross transforms, with adult entertainment at the fore. The area is busy and well policed, but leave your inhibitions at the door.
Located in northern Sydney, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is the second-oldest national park in the country and a favorite among campers, hikers and nature lovers. Its lush rainforest landscape, quiet creeks and mountain passes lead visitors to forget Ku-ring-gai Chase is still within Sydney city limits, but its incredible views, thick mangroves and scenic drives make it the perfect escape from center city hustle.
The park is on the Australian National Heritage List, and travelers often wander its well-kept walking paths that wind through the Australian jungle. Driving may prove the easiest way to navigate the area, but many visitors prefer to call upon bicycles and horses to explore. An ideal day trip, Ku-ring-gai Chase offers public picnic spaces, paddle and sailboats and scenic overlooks like the Barrenjoey Lighthouse.
More Things to Do in Sydney
Coogee Beach is a family favorite, a sheltered arc of golden sand lapped by blue waves and patrolled by surf lifesavers in their red and gold. For a really safe swim, dip your toe in the walled ocean baths, protected from the strong Pacific waves.
The welcome blue waters of Coogee Beach mark the end of the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, and the stretches of lawn shaded by Norfolk pines offer an inviting spot to rest under. Bring a picnic, fire up the BBQ or replenish flagging energy at the string of beach cafes and chichi restaurants bordering the beach.
St Mary's Cathedral is one of Sydney’s oldest and grandest buildings. Built on land given to the Catholic Church during the earliest days of colonization (1820), the original church was almost completely destroyed by fire and later rebuilt in its current form. The building that stands on Sydney’s central College Street today was constructed from Sydney sandstone and is regarded as one of the finest examples of an English-style Gothic Cathedral in the world.
There are many notable architectural features in the Cathedral’s design, which was only fully realized 100 years after the architect William Wardell’s death. Most notable is the Cathedral’s local sandstone interior and façade, its beautiful stained glass windows (especially the three rose windows at the entrance and the huge chancel window), and the high central nave.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Sydney’s best sights are lining the beaches or harbor, but in the case of popular Observatory Hill, this elevated perch in the heart of downtown is one of the city’s best spots. For one, visiting the park is totally free—as are the sweeping views of the harbor and Sydney’s Harbor Bridge. Make the 20-minute trek from The Rocks and pack along a picnic, relaxing and sprawling out on the grass with a panoramic view of the harbor. The uphill climb to reach the park tends to thin out the visitor crowds, and thereby makes it a local favorite for watching the sun go down.
The Museum of Contemporary Art has been showcasing the works of Australian artists in galleries designed to celebrate solo exhibitions since it first opened its doors back in 1991. The museum is housed in the former Maritime Services Board Building and offers visitors incredible views of the picturesque harbor and iconic opera house. Those who enjoy the Museum of Modern Art in New York City will likely find similar experimental work here. Travelers say that while the museum is small, it’s worth the trip and a quiet café on the fourth floor is perfect for post-museum tea or weekend brunch with a view.
Opened in 1826, Sydney’s State Library of New South Wales is the oldest library in Australia and a repository for a huge and diverse collection of books. The iconic building is also home to over 1 million photos, maps and manuscripts. Architecturally grand from the outside, inside is modern, bright and attractive, and the Mitchell Library looks straight out of a movie with its book-lined walls. The library also has five historic galleries in the Mitchell Wing which host both permanent and temporary free exhibitions — from collections of 18th-century Australian natural history illustrations to the diaries of Australian men and women writing in WWI.
Next to Parliament House and the Royal Botanic Gardens on Macquarie Street, the State Library of New South Wales also has its own book club. And on a regular basis there are also talks on literary, historical, and contemporary issues. Film screenings and workshops are often held at the library too.
When it comes to finding a great deal, the Art Gallery of New South Wales (NSW) is one of the top spots to hit in Sydney. Everything from the permanent galleries and celebrity talks to live performances and Wednesday night films are free to the public.
Since 1871 this international destination, complete with grand courts, light-filled halls and stunning harbor views, has been showcasing one of the most diverse collections of artwork in the country. Travelers may have to pay an additional fee for temporary exhibits, but the permanent collection at Art Gallery NSW is large enough that visitors can while away a day soaking up Sydney culture.
With two locations in the heart of Sydney, Paddy’s Market is quickly becoming a must-visit for visitors to Sydney. Flemington Paddy’s Market is the place to go for local produce. If you’re after some of the best fruit and veggies in Sydney then visit the Flemington location. As well as Paddy’s Market, there’s a flower market in the area. Visit on the weekend to see Sydney’s Paddy’s Market come alive with clothes, gifts and souvenirs vendors, as well as a Swap and Sell Market selling second hand goods.
The Haymarket location is the one most people think of when they think of Paddy’s. The Haymarket market near Chinatown has a flea market vibe with clothes, souvenirs, some produce, jewellery, flowers and more. Haymarket Paddy’s is easier to get to, plus it has the added benefit of being next to some of Sydney’s best Chinese restaurants.
Those in search of stars can head to the shores of Palm Beach, a Sydney celebrity hot spot, or they can make their way to the Sydney Observatory, where astronomers and locals have been charting the skies of the southern hemisphere since 1858.
Self-guided walking tours through the observatory explore astronomy, meteorology, timekeeping and archaeology, and visitors can also travel through the observatory’s rich past by checking out the impressive array of informative exhibits. The facility’s world-class planetarium is a popular spot to visit, but the opportunity to view the night sky through a telescope is a one-of-a-kind treat. The oldest working telescope in Australia opens up the skies for guests, who can catch a glimpse of double stars, the moon and even planets.
Be it surfers on the beaches, the discovery of Australia via the sea route from Europe or the subsequent commerce and immigration—Australia is closely tied to water. The Australian National Maritime Museum acts accordingly in featuring rich exhibitions ranging from the time of the Eora First People to the First Fleet all the way to the present. Visitors learn how convicts traveled in dark and damp accommodations and how passengers sailing to a new life survived long ocean journeys through reconstructed stories made up of artifacts and mementos left behind.
Those interested in military history can make their way to the Navy exhibit, which explores naval traditions during war and peace times. Here, visitors get the chance to test a submarine’s periscope and try out a soldier’s cramped bunk bed. The museum even has its own fleet, with many of the vessels accessible via guided tour.
Life in Sydney isn’t all about the beach and surfing, but about culture as well. Located inside the walls of a majestic building from 1788, the former residence of Gov. Arthur Phillip, the Museum of Sydney informs visitors about the history of New South Wales’ capital in an entertaining way. The collection displays archaeological finds, utensils from the everyday life of the Aborigines and the first settlers, as well as documents and pictures about the development of Sydney to Australia’s largest city.
Multimedia presentations and computer animations bring the history of the former penal colony to life, and although the museum mostly informs guests about the city’s history, it also takes a critical look at the clash of cultures that happened between the Aborigines and European immigrants.
Travelers love Milsons Point because of the uninterrupted views of Harbour Bridge and the iconic Opera House. During hot summer nights, locals gather on this tiny peninsula in Sydney Harbour opposite Sydney Cove and watch the sun dip down over the central business district skyline. This quiet spot has become a destination for those looking to capture a perfect picture of the city.
When day turns to night, young couples can be found holding hands as they stroll along the neon-lit midway of nearby Luna Park. The low-key crowd will appreciate the well-manicured suburbs of the north shore that are ripe with quiet cafes, continental restaurants and plenty of friendly locals.
Sumptuously decorated and timelessly elegant, central Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building is an unforgettable shopping destination. Built in High Victorian Romanesque style in 1898, and now meticulously restored, it stands on the site of the original Sydney markets.
The QVB's soaring central dome boasts translucent stained-glass clad in copper on the outside, and the shopping area takes up several balconied floors linked by grand staircases. Tiled floors, pillars, colonnades, balustrades, and arches. Chiming clocks and interesting historical displays complete the QVB’s flamboyant decor.
Originally the shops included tailors and florists; today there’s a wide range of specialist stores, from stationers to couturiers, cafes and coffee shops.
The Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) is Sydney's primary venue for Cricket and Australia Rules Football. It also serves as the home stadium of the New South Wales Blues cricket team and the Australian Football League’s Sydney Swans.The SCG originally opened in 1886 and holds just over 47,000 spectators. It is famous for the two historic stands that are still standing today: the members and the ladies stands.
Beneath the ladies’ stands you’ll find the SCG Museum, which is dedicated to collecting, documenting, preserving and displaying the sporting and social activities that have occurred at the SCG since the mid-1800s. Tours of the SCG run Monday to Friday at 11am and 2pm, and Saturdays at 11am. The museum is closed all public holidays and major match days.
Things to do near Sydney
- Things to do in New South Wales
- Things to do in Hunter Valley
- Things to do in Port Stephens
- Things to do in Byron Bay
- Things to do in Yarra Valley
- Things to do in Gold Coast
- Things to do in Melbourne
- Things to do in Brisbane
- Things to do in Mornington Peninsula
- Things to do in Phillip Island
- Things to do in Ballarat
- Things to do in Noosa & Sunshine Coast
- Things to do in Great Ocean Road
- Things to do in Victoria
- Things to do in Tasmania